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Portland Parks & Recreation struggles with staffing shortage

Published: May. 23, 2022 at 6:28 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Cities across the country are experiencing staffing challenges in parks and recreation agencies. With summer on the way, parents in Portland are eager to get their kids in swimming lessons. Classes are scarce because of low staff.

Since June 2021, Portland Parks & Recreation have put on job fairs, and used social media to hire more staff. They are trying to hire 100 more lifeguards and swim instructors for the 2022 summer season. For every additional staff member, that allows anywhere from 25 to 50 kids a day. Alaina Bott, PP&R Aquatics Director, says they’re frustrated and want to be able to teach every kid in the city how to swim.

In summer 2019, before the pandemic, there were about 750 seasonal staff members in aquatics alone. This year there are only about 300.

“I think just something happened during the pandemic and priorities shifted and people just found other jobs. We closed so we lost a lot of staff,” says Bott.

Positions will have a flexible schedule, free CPR certification, and competitive pay. In addition to classes, fun things like the slide at the Southwest Community Center, won’t be open because the slide requires two staff members to operate. Limiting locations make it difficult for parents like Mary, to find an alternative for her 5-year old son.

“We are going to do our lessons at a different pool, which we haven’t been to yet, just so he can get familiar and comfortable in the water for the summer,” says Mary Jalei. “It’s definitely not walkable. We’ll have to pack up the kids and commute somewhere else and figure out what neighborhood that is in.”

There are seven outdoor pools and four indoors and a waitlist with over a thousand kids. Lessons will only be taught in outdoor pools because they’re able to serve more neighborhoods. The closest pool to the SWCC offering lessons, is the Wilson outdoor pool.

“He was really excited to do it here and I don’t know if I’m going to deter his enthusiasm,” says Jalei.

If you are thinking of applying, pay starts at $15/ hour. You can visit the Portland Parks & Recreation site here.